#97-17
Issued 2/20/97


EPA CONTACT: Richard Cahill, 212/637-3666
DOE CONTACT: Bill Wicker, 516/344-3424
BNL CONTACT: Kara Villamil, 516/344-2345

FEB. 20 UPDATE ON GROUNDWATER CONTAMINATION

AT BROOKHAVEN NATIONAL LABORATORY


UPTON, NY - Two of 40 recent samples from six temporary monitoring wells 1,000 feet south of the High Flux Beam Reactor at the U. S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) show tritium levels above the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water standard of 20,000 picocuries per liter. New wells are being installed south of the six wells to assist in further determining the extent and depth of the contamination.

One of the recent samples indicates tritium at a level of 102,000 picocuries per liter, five times the drinking water standard. Another sample has a value of 30,300 picocuries per liter, one-and-a-half times the drinking water standard.

EPA continues to split samples with BNL and confirm their accuracy, and continues to conclude there is no public health threat from the contamination. On-site drinking water at the Lab is tested daily for radioactivity, and results continue to show that tap water is not contaminated with tritium.
DOE's continuing investigation to identify the source of the contamination is focused on the 68,000-gallon spent fuel pool in the reactor's lower level. Tests are being conducted to determine whether or not there is a leak from the pool and how best to stop it in the near future. BNL has committed to lining the pool after the spent fuel has been removed. DOE and BNL are working with EPA and state and local regulators to address options for clean-up, such as pumping the contaminated groundwater.

In addition, tests continue to confirm that tritium is not present above the drinking water standard in any monitoring well at BNL's southern boundary, in the path of groundwater flowing south from the tritium contamination near the reactor building.

BNL and DOE will continue to provide information as it becomes available.

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